What else of value could I learn about Rosa Parks by viewing the new exhibit about her, I thought? It seems like I have read enough and seen enough about the American Civil Rights icon. I even visited the Rosa Parks Memorial and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. However, I did not realize that my perceptions of her had huge gaps until I took the time to view Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words exhibition, which is now open at the Library of Congress in Washington and online indefinitely.
Learning more about her racial background, education, and political affiliations added new dimensions in my mind about Parks and underscored what historian C.R. Gibbs has advised me to do: research and read for myself and don’t rely on historical movies for information.
While the curators at the Library of Congress did the research, reading about her multi-racial background and seeing blown-up images of her ancestors explains her skin tone and hair texture, while making those Facebook posts on who “is really authentically Black; therefore, for the people” even more trivial.
Ironically, as I digested her multi-racial heritage, I was reading in the exhibition notes that when then Rosa McCauley met her husband to be, Raymond Parks, she “thought he was too White,” but was impressed with his character and defiant attitude.